SwimRun is small but rapidly growing multisport that can take you to some beautiful places. Wiggle Chief Marketing Officer, Harvey Bennett, recently took part in his first SwimRun – The Otillo Isles of Scilly SwimRun event. Below he gives us an insight into the sport.
Having competed in triathlons for over ten years and completed many cycling, running and duathlon events I was excited by the prospect of taking on a new challenge this year. I thought that I’d love the event but, looking back, it was actually even better than I expected. Unlike triathlons, most SwimRuns are completed in a team of two, which only adds to the enjoyment and also provides encouragement when the going gets tough – and it can do! SwimRuns are generally split into multiple sections, the race in the Isles of Scilly had 8 run sections (totalling 30km) and 7 swim sections (8km), all of which you complete in the same kit. Not all races are as long as that and many organisers now run sprint distance races as well as full distance races.
In preparing for the race, the biggest question I had was 'what should I wear for the race where you are swimming through 12 degree waters and running in (as it turned out) temperatures in the high 20 degrees Celsius?' Whilst one can cut down a standard wetsuit to enable you to run in it, having taken advice from others, I opted for a SwimRun specific wetsuit – the Orca Core SwimRun Wetsuit.
I would definitely recommend buying a specific suit. It was warm on the swim, and importantly very flexible on the run. The biggest surprise to me was that the suit felt extremely comfortable on the run, and I didn’t feel any restriction. Other advantages of the suit that I chose include front zip (to ease opening and rolling down if you get very hot), separate sleeves (again to adjust temperature), small pockets to store nutrition and an integrated whistle (required at some races).
Unlike triathlon, many swim tools are allowed at most races. Most competitors used a pull buoy to aid with leg buoyancy (you are swimming in shoes); I used the Orca SwimRun Pull Buoy which has elasticated straps integrated into it to make it easy to run with. I also wore Orca SwimRun Calf Guards that further increase flotation and provide further warmth and protection for your legs. Paddles were also popular and I’ll be using them next time.
The final accessory, which we took but didn’t, use was the Orca Bungee Cord. In most teams of two, one of the swimmers is stronger than the other and I saw many slower swimmers being considerably assisted by their teammate as they were tied together. Practice with the kit is critical before race day though as swimming whilst attached to a rope is a different experience! Depending on the temperature of the water you may also want to use a neoprene swim hat and wetsuit gloves.
Choice of run shoes is also important. I chose the Salomon Speedcross 4 Shoes because they have great grip (important as you transition out of the water onto a variety of terrain, including slippery rocks), are relatively lightweight and have a solid snug fit.
Kit aside, the key to success, as it is with any event, is training. I would recommend doing a number of training sessions with your partner in your race kit. Working together is critical. It’s a long race, so understanding each others’ strengths and weaknesses are and how to pace the event is important.
Although the distances for swimming and running are long the alternation between swimming and running does give either your upper body or lower body muscle groups some recovery time in between sections. In my experience this means that one doesn’t need to do such long distance training for each of the disciplines as one would do if training for a single discipline event of the equivalent distance.
The event itself was terrific fun, great scenery, great organisation, a great atmosphere and it was a real challenge. I’m now planning my next SwimRun events and plan to be back to the Isles of Scilly next year. Maybe I’ll see you there.
If you love a sporting challenge, are a reasonably strong swimmer and want to try something new, why not take on a SwimRun event.